Car Starts Then Dies: 10 Causes and Solutions

​When a car starts and stops immediately, there’s immediate danger in your head. You start thinking about dozens of things that could be preventing your vehicle from starting, and it always ends up in further preoccupation.

The rational thing after two or three tries of starting the car and nothing happens is to start looking for the reason why that’s happening.

Otherwise, you may end up damaging the engine or any other part of the car permanently, which could end up in thousands of dollars wasted just out of stubbornness.

Luckily for you, this doesn’t have to be the case. We know exactly how to fix and prevent issues like this from scaling out of your hands. Below you’ll find what could be causing this and how to fix it.

10 Causes and Fixes for Cars Dying After Starting

To fix and prevent further issues with parts of your car – here we are going to list 10 reasons and solutions for vehicles that die just after starting. Take a look below to learn more!

1. Fuel Pump Leak 

When the fuel injection system or fuel pumps are leaking, your car may turn on but immediately stall. This happens because the combustion process is not working correctly, as fuel won’t reach the combustion chamber so the spark can ignite it along with air.

When this happens, your car may sometimes not last more than a few seconds after starting, and that can be a bother. To check that this is the issue, you’ll need first to take a look at the fuel line that goes from the gas tank to the engine. This line should be in a pristine state.

Otherwise, that may be the issue of your car not initiating correctly. It could have been a violent run over a steep street or a deep bump in the street that damaged the line. Any lousy connection to the engine or the fuel tank can also be the issue. Yet, it is almost always recognized by the smell of gasoline immediately after opening the hood of the car.

Here are a few instructions to help you fix it:

  • Try adjusting the leak before starting the car again. Driving any vehicle with a fuel leak is dangerous.
  • Rubber lines can easily be replaced by removing the clamps on each side of the line. Remember to use gauntlets and the right size and material of the rubber tube to prevent further issues.
  • For steel fuel lines it’s almost obligatory to hire the help of a mechanic to replace the line. This type of line demands more work, experience, and careful operation.

2. Clogged or Old Fuel Filter

A fuel filter is close to the fuel line that goes from the engine to the gas tank. It usually looks similar to a cylinder with a built-in tube or straw where fuel passes through. This filter is where gas passes through before reaching the engine.

It cleans gasoline so to say. So, it’s normal for the filter to need replacement after some time, or eventually need cleaning when it’s clogged.

When it starts failing either due to clogging or because it’s too old, getting a stalling car is common. Most people replace it after 40,000 miles, others after 20,000 miles, and for the most demanding users, a fuel filter shouldn’t last more than 10,000 miles. However, it’s all according to the car’s needs.

Tips to check and fix your fuel filter:

  • Try to remember or find out when the filter was changed the last time. This will give you a clue of whether it needs replacement due to old age. Otherwise, keep checking.
  • Most filters have a window or transparent filtering chamber where you can see inside. This way you can find out how dirty it is. If it looks rusty or closer to dark than yellowish or bluish as most filters are, you need to replace it.
  • Lastly, test the pressure in the line of the filter. If the pressure is not the right one, it’s probably a clogged filter that needs replacement.
  • If you found that the filter was the problem, you’ll need to replace the filter. You can do this by just removing the plastic clips and unscrewing the brackets that hold the filter. Then install the new filter connecting the lines, clips and inserting the brackets once again. Do this, and you’ll be done with the filter.
  • If none of these tips worked, go to the next reason.

3. Damaged Fuel Pump

Along with a clogged fuel filter, you may also find a fuel pump preventing the car from turning on. If you check for the fuel filter and everything is okay, then it’s probably the fuel pump causing the problem.

While the pump doesn’t usually get damaged, the fuse that powers it does. So you’ll need to check whether the fuse works correctly. If it the fuse works correctly, you can try the following tips:

  • Measure the fuel pressure. Only try measuring the pump when the engine is cool. You’ll need to turn the key on the car to see the pressure. But first, connect a fuel pressure gauge on the fuel rail.
  • Then, turn the key to see if it offers enough pressure according to the ideal ones in the car’s owner manual. If it does, the pump should be working correctly.
  • If the readings don’t match the vehicle’s requirement, you will need to replace the fuel pump. Ask a professional to do it for you.

4. Water, Ice or Build-Up in Gas Tank

When water goes into the gas tank, it’s very likely that combustion won’t happen the usual way which causes the car to stall after turning on. And of course, the only way to fix this is to drain the tank so you can get rid of all the water inside. Otherwise, it may end up damaging your engine and other parts of the car.

First, make sure it is water the problem with the tank. If you haven’t started the car in more than a month or so, it’s probably the “separation phase” where gas, alcohol, and water separate in the formula.

As water is the heaviest of the three, it stands in the bottom which blocks the way to the engine and causes the car to stall. With more than a month without moving, buildup can also be the problem.

It could also be condensation, especially in rainy seasons or in winter. If you let water inside the tank by mistake, that would be an apparent reason too.

Otherwise, common signals that there’s water in your tank are acceleration problems and sudden changes of speed when driving. If any of these happens, you have water in your tank.

In winter this water may eventually create a block of ice, which will block the tank entirely or just let a drop of gas to reach the combustion chamber. This could also happen when you shut off the engine, the heat will go to the gas tank and condensate.

Eventually, this condensation will turn into water, and when the car cools down, the water turns into ice. Either way, you’ll need to fix it before it’s too late.

Here’s how to fix it:

  • Move the car indoors, preferably to a heated garage or room where you can let it sit for at least 4 hours, so the car gets warm inside.
  • Now, get a bottle of any water-removing fuel additive such as HEET. It will get rid of any water or build-up inside your tank.
  • Add some HEET to the tank and let it sit for a few minutes. Then try starting the car slowly. Don’t overdo it, and don’t turn the key for longer than 3 seconds. Otherwise, you may end up killing the battery by trying too hard.
  • After 5 tries, let the car sit longer so HEET can do its job further. Then, repeat this process until the car starts. Add as much HEET as needed.

5. Fuel Injection Sensor Issue

A fuel injector needs a specific amount of pressure to work correctly and inject fuel into the combustion chamber. But for the injector to do this, the sensor needs to send a signal to the engine control unit, so it can eventually send the injector the right amount of fuel.

When the sensor doesn’t correctly, it may send too little fuel or too much which ends up in either a lack of combustion power or too much which causes the combustion to bust. And this usually happens when the sensor is faulty, so there aren’t many things to do more than just replacing it.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Call a mechanic or automotive professional to check the fuel sensor or injectors. This person would know whether to replace the sensor, fix it, or eventually just clean the injectors. Doing this will protect your time and money.

6. Ignition Issue

Among the many things that could be happening when your car dies out, an ignition problem can be a huge reason to consider. It occurs more commonly than many people think, yet it is often overlooked.

However, mechanics and experienced car owners know that an ignition issue is probably the reason why the car is failing.

When the ignition system fails, it could either because it doesn’t spark or because the spark is too small, the combustion won’t be the same, and the car will die out eventually. Click here to know 2 different types of spark plug.

To fix this, you’ll need to:

  • Check the spark plugs. Make sure they don’t look burned, old or shorted. Then clean them and install them once again. If the car still doesn’t work, they may be damaged. Replace them if possible. If the problem doesn’t get fixed yet, keep reading.
  • Check the spark plug wires. If the cables are not working correctly due to breakage or old age, it could also prevent the spark plugs from sparkling correctly. If they look damaged or too old, replace them. This should fix the issue.

7. Bad Battery Connections

Another common issue with cars that die out after starting is battery connections all around the place. A vehicle needs constant electricity to work, and when these connections on the battery are not correctly installed, the car eventually dies due to lack of electricity.

This could be either a bad head connection or grease/grime in the terminals of the battery deflecting energy from reaching correctly.

Here’s how to fix this:

  • Check all the fittings and make sure no dirt, grease or grime is between them and the battery. Clean the terminals with a degreaser or product such as WD-40 or PB Blaster. This should fix the issue, otherwise, check the battery.
  • A bad battery may also cause the car to stall while driving or just after starting it. Test the battery in another vehicle if you don’t find any problem with the connections. If it works, it could be a problem with the electricity wires. Replace them if needed.

Related Accessories: 10 List of Best LiPO Charger

8. Defective Car Alarm

Something many people don’t know about car alarms is that they may eventually turn the engine off when they “sense” the car is being stolen.

Unless you have messed with the electric part of your car connected to your alarm and make it malfunction, this is something that rarely happens, yet it’s entirely possible.

When the alarm does this, it may eventually kill the motor after several tries, so it’s essential to fix it after it is too late.

Here’s how:

  • The simplest solution is to disconnect the alarm directly. But even disconnecting it will take expert help, not from mechanics but from specialized alarm shops or car dealerships.
  • If you’ve done any configuration or touched any electrical part of the car, check once again to see if everything is put together as it should. If you don’t find any issue, then call an expert.

9. Bad Carburetor

Maybe the second most crucial part of a car when it comes to combustion, the carburetor is a part that may also malfunction and cause starting issues. As the part responsible for adjusting air and fuel ration to the combustion chamber, it could eventually malfunction and break the whole process.

If you find out after trying previous steps that the reason for your car problem is the carburetor; you’ll have to either clean it or replace it.

If you want to fix any carburetor issue, do this:

  • Before doing anything to the carburetor, make sure you know everything about the car. From the year and brand to the model and ID tag of the carburetor, all this information is essential so you can find the right replacement kit for your car or eventually fix it without doing any damage.
  • Then you can try cleaning the carburetor if it is too dirty or hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. Doing this is relatively easy, we recommend following online guides as it takes no more than 30 minutes.
  • Complicated carburetors such as electronic or variable venturi ones may take longer. Yet, they also need special adjustment and rebuilding them can be an issue. We recommend hiring a mechanic or experienced user to clean complicated carburetors.
  • If any critical part such as a throttle shaft, castings, or any internal part is warped, damaged, or cracked– you’ll need to replace the carburetor. Make sure to pick the right one according to your car’s model, ID, year and maker.

10. Malfunctioning Engine Control Unit

You could say that the ECU (engine control unit) is like the computer of any vehicle. But like any other computer, it can bug and glitch, which eventually transforms into errors that could shut down your car after starting.

As all electronic components are managed by this part of the car, when it doesn’t work you will probably face different issues, including stalling or dying engines.

It could be either because the sensors are not working correctly, the fuel injection system works deficiently, or because it doesn’t send the right signals to the engine and other critical parts.

Whatever happens, you will have to find the error code of the problem and fix it accordingly. To do this, you will have to get a code scanner (auto parts shop sell these) and plug it to an OBDII port so you can find out what’s happening with the computer. Here’s what you can do when finding the code:

  • Each car has specific error codes. Make sure to read the repair manual or ask an expert on what these codes mean. Don’t try to fix the problem if you don’t know what it means.


When you start having this problem of your car starting and then dying, you have many things to check and fix if needed. But as long as do each with care and patience, you will be able to get rid of any problem your car may be suffering.

Use our advice and instructions for each possible issue, and you will fix your car without drawbacks. Don’t let your car die again – with this guide, there’s nothing that could keep you from fixing it.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: